Travel Guide To Oahu – Oahu, popularly known as “The Gathering Place”, is Hawaii’s third largest island and is home to roughly a million people. It accounts for about two-thirds of the population of the Hawaiian archipelago. Oahu is situated in the county of Honolulu, and is located northwest of the capital city, Honolulu.
The island covers an area of 596.7 square miles and is the 3rd largest of all the Hawaiian Islands. Oahu also includes the small Ford Island and those in the Kāne’ohe Bay, and is home to two shield volcanoes. They are the: Wai’anae and Ko’olau Ranges with the highest point being Ka’ala.
A few well-known sites on the island are the Waikiki, Mokoli’i Island, Pearl Harbour (made famous from the 1941 bombings) etc.
The island of Oahu was the first island of Hawaii to be discovered by a crew of the HMS Resolution on the 1st of January 1778. On the 7th of December 1941, its Pearl Harbour was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy, resulting in the participation of the U.S in the Second World War.
Today, Oahu has become an international tourist site, receiving over five million visitors per year.
Top Visited Island of Hawaii Names
Table of Contents
Island of Hawaii Travel Guide – Plan Your Trip to Oahu, Hawaii
Best Time to Visit Oahu
Oahu is a tropical island with cool temperatures all year round, even in the winter months with exception to a few hot weeks of summer. The hottest months in Oahu are July, August and September, with the warmest time of the year usually occurring in mid-August.
The temperature at this time is usually around 28.8oC and rarely drops below 20oC during the nights. Though hurricanes and storms seldom occur, it is still pertinent to be prepared in case they do come. However, they only occur around June to November.
If you are looking to visit Oahu during the warm periods, then it is best to visit during the spring months of March, April and May. High temperatures during this period range from 24oC to 27oC, though the temperatures get warmer as the months go by. Despite the warm temperatures, the rains are usually frequent within this period with up to 9 days of significant rainfall.
In the cold month of December, January and February, rain or snow is common with daily highs reaching up to 28oC.
With the busiest month being July, and the least busy being June, hotels prices and flights are higher in July. However, prices are lowest in June. Overall, the best time to visit Oahu is from mid-April to early July.
Festivals and events common within these periods include:
Mid-April to June:
- Lantern Floating Day (holds in May)
- Lei Day Celebration (holds in May)
Mid-June to August
- Hawaii State Farm Fair (holds in June)
- Statehood Day (August)
- Prince Lot Hula Festival (July)
September to Mid-December
- Aloha Festivals (September)
- Hawaiian Food and Wine Festival (October-November)
- Honolulu Fashion Week (November)
- Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November-December) etc.
Rough Travel Budget for Oahu
Budgeting is an essential part of every trip, as it saves you from excessive spending and value loss. As the visitor traffic in Oahu varies per month and season, it is almost impossible to estimate the exact flight cost from any location. Furthermore, the cost of flying depends on the distance of your location. However, the month of June is the least expensive as a result of low tourist traffic.
In Oahu, the average daily cost of vacationing is around $266. According to past travelers, the average cost of a daily meal is around $43, but it is cheaper if you cook your own meal. Local transportation costs an average of $17, depending o your movement schedule.
The local bus service in Oahu called “The Bus” is a cheap and efficient way to navigate the island. It costs around $3 per ticket and can take you almost anywhere on the island.
For a couple, the average hotel cost is around $379 but staying in a hostel provides way cheaper services. A few even provide free breakfast, snorkeling and swimming gear. Hostels cost an average of $100 and they are pretty comfortable, though not top-class.
In general, a week’s stay for a couple in Oahu may cost around $3,729. On the other hand, a trip for a single person should be about half the couple’s cost.
Overall, it is always wise to budget for unforeseen expenses which may come up during the course of your journey. This may help keep you covered for a few rainy days.
What to Pack for Oahu
Packing according to the climatic conditions is very important if one desires to make the best out of his/her vacation. It would only be sad if you caught a cold when you are supposed to be taking a dip in the warm beaches of Oahu. Packing however, goes beyond just clothes and shoes.
It also encompasses other essentials such as phone chargers, ATM cards, pouches, medicines etc. Below are a few necessary things – clothes and accessories – that you will come in handy during your holiday in Oahu:
- T-Shirts, Tank tops
- Hiking shoes
- Undergarments and socks
- Pyjamas etc.
As it can get chilly at night in Oahu, it will be necessary to pack a light jacket or a sweatshirt. Furthermore, your trip may fall in the winter season when snow sometimes falls.
In case of infants and babies, it is advisable to pack some diapers and baby food. Other essentials include toiletries such as perfumes, soaps etc. Note that some of these can be purchased in Oahu, thus pack lightly to prevent excessive luggage. You can also come with a camera to capture scenes and memorable events.
Island of Hawaii Activities – Ten Best Things to Do in Oahu
Oahu is home to series of amazing sites and activities, accounting for the high influx of visitors yearly. A visit to Oahu is incomplete without a tour of the island’s numerous cultural sites and landmarks. The beauty of Mother Nature further compliments the diverse ethnicities, culinary traditions, languages and art. Little wonder the island is nicknamed the “gathering place”.
Below are a few activities to do and sites to visit when in Oahu.
1. Visit the Iolani Palace
In the 1890’s and earlier, the governance of Hawaii lay in the hands of a monarchy and the Iolani Palace was the official residence of the royal families. Among them were the King Lalakuau and his sister/eventual successor, Queen Liliuokalani. The palace is a magnificent edifice and the only royal palace on United States soil.
A walk through the palace affords the opportunity to view the throne room, dining room and prison. A trip to the palace is not only exciting but also educative.
2. Go to a Luau
The Hawaiian culture is a rich one and it is one of Oahu’s major identifiers. The Luau at the Paradise Cove aids in the preservation of this culture by offering an original experience showing the true Hawaiian lifestyle. The word “Luau” means “east” and it is an avenue to showcase how the Hawaiians eat, live, celebrate and entertain.
3.Watch the beautiful Hawaiian Sunrise and Sunset
In the evenings, the moment when the Hawaiian Sun meets the blue in Oahu is a very pleasant sight to watch. As the Sun kisses the vast blue ocean, it casts shimmers of orange-yellow glows, bathing the onlookers’ face with an orange splash. In the mornings, the Sun rears its golden head out of the blue sky, reminding the Earth of the dawn of a new day.
Watching these two wonders creates around you a relaxing mien and places on your face a smile.
The best place to watch the sunrise is from the end of Kailua Beach, from where you will have an eagle eye view of the Moku Iki Island. Have your camera on standby for this.
4. Visit the Koko Head Stairs
Have you ever imagined yourself climbing more than a thousand steps in order to ascend a mountain? Well, you have the chance to do that in Oahu when you visit the Koko Head stairs. It is also known as the Stairway to Heaven. Initially built to decades ago as a railroad to aid the conveying of military supplies to the bunkers atop the mountains, it now serves as a tourist attraction.
It is located on the way to Haunama Bay and you can see the winding trail from far below.
To climb it, you are advised to come along with very comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, water and a hat. It is best to go around sunrise or sunset in order to avoid the afternoon heat.
5. Learn to Surf
Surfing is now a popular sport in Hawaii though it previously was reserved only for Hawaiian royalty. The present popularity of the sport is owed to the Olympic gold-medal swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku and the boys of the Waikiki Beach. Due to the presence of many great beaches and amazing wave breaks, Hawaii is a surfing hotspot.
The fully-licensed and insured surf school by name Gone Surfing Hawaii offers surfing lessons tailored to meet the individual’s surfing preference. You will have the chance to learn various surfing techniques, and you may meet some dolphins or turtles in the process.
6. Hike the Chinaman’s Hat
Chinaman’s Hat as its name suggests is actually not a giant Chinaman’s hat, but an island shaped like one. IT is located near Kualoa Ranch and is accessible by kayak or a short swim. When you arrive at the island, take a short hike to the top to get an amazing view of the Kualoa mountains and the sea shore.
You can take a kayak tour from Waikiki for an adventure in Kaneohe and then the Chinaman’s Hat.
7. View Honolulu and Oahu from The Diamond Head
This is probably the most popular thing to do asides from visiting the Waikiki Beach. The Diamond Head is the crater of a dormant volcano now used as a cemetery. The hike to the top takes about 30 minutes and you experience very scenic views all the way to the top.
From the bunkers and crater atop, you can catch a glimpse of Waikiki and the ocean. The entrance fee to the site is just $2.
8. Experience Manao Falls
Hiking up the Manao Falls is the second most popular hike in Oahu after the Diamond Head Hike. The trail is a few minutes away from busy Waikiki and is jungle-enclosed, leading to a scenic waterfall. It is a fact that some scenes from Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed in the lush greenery of the falls.
Taking a guided tour is the best way to experience the waterfall so to get a full explanation of the flora and fauna.
9. Try the North Shore Garlic Shrimp
Oahu’s North Shore is famed for its surfing, beaches and skydiving. However, it is also famous for a cuisine called the Garlic Shrimp which can be purchased from food trucks. The best-known shrimp trucks are Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.
You can also purchase ice-cream from Mastumuto’s Shave Ice, to wash down the shrimps.
10. Pay a Visit to the Pearl Harbour Memorial
As said earlier in this article, The Hawaiian Pearl Harbour was destroyed by Japanese Forces on the 7th of December 1941. This disaster left nearly 3000 military men dead and destroyed 188 naval ships.
As a reminder, the United States Government built a memorial for the fallen heroes; a site which has received international recognition. It is also a reminder of the brutalities of the Second World War which the U.S entered after the attack.
Tours Around Oahu
Touring Oahu is a job on its own as there are series of sights, attractions and landmarks all over the island. Most tours in Oahu are managed by agencies and organizations, though there may be individual tours. The tours in Oahu range from the educative to the breath-taking and to the fun-spurring.
The choice is yours. Below are a few tours around the island that may interest you.
Waikele Outlets Shopping Shuttle:
Operated by Roberts Hawaii, this tour allows you to discover a hassle-free way to shop for bargains in more than 50 renowned brand name stores. The tour costs $12.
Also offered by Roberts Hawaii, the tour allows you to observe a traditional luau with a royal procession and Imu Ceremony. You also get the chance to enjoy a delicious traditional buffet dinner. The tour costs $114.
5 Star Circle Island
As the two above, this tour is offered by Roberts Hawaii and it gives you the chance to stop at Oahu’s most scenic spots. You get to experience the Haleiwa Town, the Dole Pineapple Pavilion and even the Pearl Harbour. The tour costs $72.68.
Oahu Eco Adventure
This luxury tour, again offered by Roberts Hawaii, takes you to the most spectacular natural spots in Hawaii. From the lush green Hawaiian flora to the Waimea Valley, this tour is a nature lover’s delight. Cost: $196.70
Other tours offered by the above name agency include:
- One-Day Kauai: Hawaii Movie Tour. Cost: $525
- Kualoa Ranch: Jurassic valley & Adventure Tours. Cost: $129.79
- Polynesian Cultural Center. Cost: $67.87
- Atlantis Submarine. Cost: $143.26 etc.
What to Eat in Oahu
Asides from the normal sites and landmarks touring, food tourism is also a great part of Oahu’s tourism industry. This probably because of the amazing cuisines native to the island and the country in general.
It is also a known fact that Oahu does very well at making Asian food, so you might want to try that out. Here are a few foods you should try during your stay in Hawaii:
Made from dough with its interior filled with a starchy paste gotten from taro root, these golden fried glazed doughnuts are a foodie’s wonder. According to locals, the best place to get this food is at the Kamehameha Bakery which specializes in deep-fried foods.
This popular treat originated from Japan when immigrants arrived in Hawaii to work in the sugar plantations. No local dessert beats the shave ice which is perfect for Oahu’s steamy weather. The M Matsumoto is the revered home of the Hawaiian Shave Ice. So when you visit, stop by and get your chill on.
This ravishing noodle soup dish is made from ramen egg noodles, fish cake, thin fingers of Spam, spring onions and doused in a light broth. It is best served at Honolulu’s famous Rainbow Drive-In in a cup-sized form.
This is the kind of dish the Nigerians called “bus-stop” as a result of its richness and hearty portions. The dish contains the boneless chicken plate, served with rice and macaronia salad. You also have the option of eating the dish with gravy all over.
Other great foods include the:
- The Hurricane Popcorn
- The Banana Coconut
- Hot Stone Bibimbap etc.
Where to Stay in Oahu
Oahu has a range of great hotels ranging from the 5-star luxury ones to the 3-star affordable. Below are a few great hotels in Oahu which will make your holiday experience even more worthwhile:
- Hotel LA Croix
- Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
- Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
- The Kahala Hotel and Resort
- Hilton Waikiki Beach
- Hotel Renew
- Aqua Oasis etc.